World MS Day is just around the corner on May 30th 2012. What have you done to raise awareness for Multiple Sclerosis this year? I’m ashamed – I know people who have participated in Walk MS for years, but I have not. In fact, I never knew how to get involved until this year. And I’m guessing I’m not alone. We have fantastic Multiple Sclerosis support organizations within our reach – do you know who they are or what they do?
In honor of World MS Day, I present to you the following organizations that provide support to those of us with Multiple Sclerosis and each organizations opportunities to take part in the MS community, including fundraising and raising awareness to fight MS. Each of these organizations provides a wealth of information on their websites and also takes part in advocacy for the MS community.
National MS Society and its many chapters will inevitably find its way into your life. For an events listing, contact your local chapter. You may already know about this organization from Momentum Magazine or from their other publications, including webcasts and other multimedia. National MS Society provides many services for those of us with MS and also has the best known fundraising programs.
- Bike MS began in 1980 and is now the largest annual charity cycling event in the US, having raised more than $600 million for MS research and services. Cyclists ride their choice of more than 100 courses from 3 miles long to as long as 250 miles long. Typical courses are 150 miles and the ride takes place over 2 or 3 days.
- Walk MS (formerly MS Walk) is the society’s largest fundraising event. Walkers register as individuals or as teams. Walk locations vary with region with about 600 Walk MS events annually.
- MS Challenge Walk is a big step beyond Walk MS. Not simply a walk, it is a 2 – 3 day walk of 30 to 50 miles beginning in 10 cities.
- MuckRuckus MS is a recreational or competitive 5 mile obstacle course held in cities across the country. You’re going to get dirty doing this one (not me, I think I’ll stick to walking).
- Dinner Of Champions Galas began in 1972 and still continue around the US. Check with your local chapter to see if there’s a Dinner Of Champions in your city.
- Women On The Move Luncheon does not ban men, but it was founded for women. Created as an educational fundraising event, the luncheon features celebrity speakers. Check with your local chapter to determine if there’s a luncheon near you.
Bike The US For MS is similar to Bike MS in the same way my Siamese cats are similar to lions. In other words, you won’t see me on the list of participants for this, but I do admire them. Not for the faint of heart, these are cross-country routes. Take a look at the site to see the riders, sponsors, and incredibly long and challenging routes for this annual event which is currently in its fifth year.
Multiple Sclerosis Association Of America may already sound familiar to you as the publisher of The Motivator. In addition to publications related to MS, MSAA also provides a host of programs and services to individuals with MS. Most events conducted by MSAA are held for patient education, but this organization also has some other exciting projects. MSAA holds an annual MSAA Art Showcase featuring themed artwork by individuals with MS. My MS Resource Locator was created as a tool to aid in locating services and assistance for the myriad of issues we face with Multiple Sclerosis. My MS Manager is a mobile app which stores your medical records, contact info for your doctors, information on side effects and treatments, and more. One of the best features of My MS Manager is its ability to store a symptom journal so that you can track your disease and potentially correlate flare-ups with their causes.
Even more fun than journaling your symptoms is MSAA’s annual event, Swim For MS. Swim For MS and the Swim For MS Pool Party are scheduled to start just before World MS Day at the end of this month, so get involved now!
Multiple Sclerosis Foundation is another organization you may recognize from its primary publications, MSFocus and MSFYi. Like MSAA, Multiple Sclerosis Foundation also has many other MS-related publications and provides a variety of services to individuals with MS. Among other things, MSF sponsors support groups, offers a lending library, offers peer counseling, offers a cooling program to provide free access to cooling aids (we all have to deal with heat!), and offers a health and wellness program providing free alternative therapies. One of MSF’s most practical programs is their assistive technology program which provides free access to aids such as:
- Aids for Daily Living
- Communication Devices
- Computers and Computer Aids
- Environmental Control Systems
- Architectural and Vehicle Modifications
- Seating, Positioning and Mobility Devices
- Aids for Vision and Hearing
- Cooling Aids
While Multiple Sclerosis Foundation may sound busy as a bee all year round (take a look at this calendar), they know how to vacation. The annual 7 day Cruise For A Cause raises funds to continue the fight against MS.
Accelerated Cure Project For Multiple Sclerosis is seriously hunting down what causes MS in the hope of stopping the disease. Individuals with MS and their relatives are asked to provide medical records and DNA samples which are then studied as the organization searches for commonalities. The more of us that participate, the greater the chances of finding a cure. Repositories are located in the following cities:
- Baltimore MD
- Dallas TX
- New York NY
- Atlanta GA
- Worcester MA
- Phoenix AZ
- Bostom MA
- Columbus OH
- Aurora CO
- Stanford CA
Accelerated Cure also hosts fundraisers throughout the year. Some upcoming events (available on the events calendar) are:
- Hollywood In The Hub (June 2 2012 in Boston)
- Walk To Accelerate The Cure (June 9 2012 in Cincinnati)
- Rally North America, Rally Dixie (June 18-21 in Nobleville IN, Clarksville, and Talladega)
- Marine Corps Marathon (October 28 in Washington DC)
Notable Past Events:
- Bowling To Fight MS!
- Atlanta Shimmer And Shine Fashion And Footwear Event
- Music To Cure MS
- Annual Shoe Ball
- Concert To Cure MS
The Nancy Davis Foundation For Multiple Sclerosis began in 1993 following Nancy Davis’s diagnosis. This organization, similarly to Accelerated Cure, seeks to end MS rather than providing ongoing services to those of us living with it. To support this cause, The Nancy Davis Foundation created the Center Without Walls to join together experts that are separated by geography. To continue its contributions to research, this foundation hosts an annual Race To Erase MS race and gala. This year you can take part in a virtual race as well. These galas, always star-studded, feature incredible performances every year. Past events have included performances by Joan Jett, Avril Lavigne, Stevie Nicks, and so many others. The Nancy Davis Foundation also recently teamed up with Jelmar Productions to host Comics Stand Up For A Cause: A Quest To Cure MS.
NARCOMS (North American Research Committee On Multiple Sclerosis) exists as an organization seeking to speed up MS research by gathering data on individuals suffering from MS. This is your chance to have a pity party and document it in their database. Do your part by enrolling and simply completing surveys online occasionally. The surveys are comprehensive and allow researches to get a clear picture of what we are facing as patients with Multiple Sclerosis. I’ve participated since shortly after my diagnosis.
Multiple Sclerosis Society Of Canada doesn’t provide the same services as its counterpart in the US, but it does fund research for the disease. It hosts several fundraising events that you can participate in. Team MS is a program provided by the MS Society Of Canada to support teams in their efforts during the MS Walk and MS Bike Tour, motivating teams and helping them successfully raise funds.
- MS Bike Tour is comprised of 22 tours across Canada ranging from 1 to 2 days between June and September to raise awareness and funds for MS.
- MS Walk has been the society’s largest event since 1991 with more than 160 wheelchair-accessible event locations and more than 60,000 participants.
- MS Read-A-Thon is the only fundraiser of its kind to the best of my knowledge. Fun and educational, easy to organize, and involving students reading books to raise funds and awareness of MS and other disabilities.
- MS Carnation Campaign takes place this weekend. Volunteers in Canada will sell carnations as a symbol of Multiple Sclerosis in virtually every public place.
I urge you to get involved in the MS community and take part in everything you can. You may not be up for a walk or a bike ride, but you may be able to volunteer or just spread the word. A connection to the community is important. Find a support group if you haven’t and get involved!
Has an MS organization made an impact in your life?